NEW YORK — The cast of characters in the ongoing NHL labor saga is about to get a bit of a makeover, at least for one day.
So far, Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league’s negotiating committee have failed to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association — led by executive director Donald Fehr — that would end the long lockout that is threatening to wipe out the entire season.
After a few days of wrangling, following the conclusion of talks between the sides and a pair of federal mediators, the NHL and the union agreed on parameters for talks that will keep the respective leaders on the outside. On Tuesday, six owners will meet with six players in New York to try to find some more common ground.
Bettman proposed such a meeting on Wednesday when talks broke down and the mediators left the process. Originally, the thought was that only owners and players would get together for the next round of discussions, but the roster was expanded on Sunday to include staff members and counsel on each side.
While the final lineup wasn’t announced on Sunday, it is likely that deputy commissioner Bill Daly will participate with the NHL, along with union special counsel Steve Fehr.
Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins), Mark Chipman (Winnipeg Jets), Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames), Jeremy Jacobs (Boston Bruins), Larry Tanenbaum (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning) will take part in the talks for the league, Daly said.
“No further details have been confirmed at this point,” Daly said in a statement announcing the meeting. “We will provide further details when available and as appropriate.”
Six players will be picked for the meeting, but that list wasn’t announced on Sunday. Neither the NHL nor the players’ association had input on who would attend on the opposite side.
All games through Dec. 14 have already been wiped off the schedule, along with the outdoor Winter Classic on New Year’s Day and All-Star Weekend that was slated for January in Columbus, Ohio.
The lockout reached its 78th day on Sunday, and at best, there will only be a shortened season if there is any hockey at all.
Many conditions needed to be worked out before this meeting could be scheduled. The sides were in contact over the weekend and finally saw eye to eye on Sunday night. Now they need to figure out how to break through on the financial issues and player contracting disputes that are keeping them apart and putting the entire season at risk.
The union has allowed any players who wanted to attend previous bargaining sessions to come, but the NHL has limited which owners could take part.
“The NHLPA has agreed to a meeting on Tuesday in New York that should facilitate dialogue between players and owners,” Donald Fehr said in a statement. “There will be owners attending this meeting who have not previously done so, which is encouraging and which we welcome. We hope that this meeting will be constructive and lead to a dialogue that will help us find a way to reach an agreement.”
Jacobs, considered one of the hardline owners, and Edwards are the only members of the group of six to have taken part in previous negotiations.
The New York Post reported Sunday that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan wanted to be included in the talks, as he was last year during the NBA lockout, but he wasn’t picked. The Post said that Dolan, who was part of the NBA owners’ negotiating committee, hasn’t had a personal relationship with Bettman since at least 2007.
Dolan’s New York Rangers were listed as the NHL’s second-most valuable franchise this week, according to Forbes magazine, at $750 million — $250 million behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first hockey team to be valued at $1 billion. Forbes said that the Rangers were the second-most profitable franchise, behind Toronto, generating $74 million of the league’s $3.4 billion income.